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Covert Ops – Extraction

Extraction is kin to editing and recycling. Editing is, of course, going through one’s writing to refine and polish it. Recycling usually refers to anything but writing. But this is the clever bit: I use both in my writing.

Let me explain. I have a draft that is ready for editing. Time for the toothcomb.

Let’s break it down into days. First day, I look at characters needs and wants. Do the chapters serve editingRemove and Recyclecharacters plot Placethem? Is my protagonist/s driving the story? Are all the characters necessary? If there are two characters saying the same thing and part of a mutual admiration society can I cut them down to size? That size is one combined character. Maybe there are three or more characters I can combine. But what do I do with the extra characters? I don’t want to discard them. I extract and recycle. She has a great backstory or a torturous future. He can have a story of his own. I replant them in my inspirations folder for reuse. I do this with the antagonist/s too. Nothing is wasted.

On the second day, I look at plot. Does it have a beginning, a middle and an end? This is tricky. I believe the beginning can happen before the story opens. Does it have twists and turns? Are they relevant to the story? If not, remove them and … yeah, wham, into the inspirations folder.

Hang on. I’m talking day one, day two but in reality it takes as long as it takes for each section.

I am at the point with a 96,000 word story where I extracted the villain. Although he was significant to the story, having up close and personal encounters with him and hearing his voice did not further the plot – they only furthered his story. So, I have extracted him and now the novel is 73,000 words.

Right off, I have over twenty thousand words towards this villain’s story. These words too will be subject to edit and all that entails. I will lose several thousand and I will add several thousand. I intend to write his story as a novella.

I have a publisher in mind. The company are looking for something with an edge which my original submission did not have although my novella was ‘… well-written and the language is beautiful…’  It is a glorious rejection and made me feel great (we are such needy creatures, writers) and added that if I had another manuscript ‘… you’ve just finished or will be finishing in the near future we’d love to read and discuss.’

I need to get a move on and send it back out.


Published inWriting


  1. Wow, how’s it going now? Sounds like you are in clear control of your material. Some interesting insights into editing, thanks for sharing them. It’s the bit that often trips people up: I like the sound of your system.

    • Lynda Kirby Lynda Kirby

      Thanks, Cath. Sometimes the practise does not reach the high standard of the theory but, unlike many people, I like editing.

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